After the long break Leeds United went into the Crystal Palace lacking game sharpness. Marsch found the performance below what he expected but Leeds United still managed to battle out a draw and a clean sheet. Against a rotated Manchester City, Leeds United still faced formidable opponents but, alas, were not pesky enough.
Three changes to the Leeds United Starting eleven, as Firpo, Struijk and Koch all start. Llorrente is dropped. Rodrigo is favoured over James as the striker, who is dropped to the bench as well; he is suited more in midfield. It is great to see Shackleton back on the bench. Klich, originally dropped, is back in the starting line-up after Cooper is withdrawn at the last minute. Cooper has been key to Leeds’ better defensive performance so this is a loss.
After Leeds United lost 7-0 to the title chasers in December – Marsch talked about Leeds being “pesky.” Gaining one point from City was vital to avoid relegation after Burnley FC’s win over Watford FC today. It would have alsombeen an opportunity to damage City’s title hopes.
Leeds had a clear goal opportunity on four minutes when the City defender slips and Rodrigo takes the ball and runs from the half way. Looking to cut the ball back he leaves it too late as a City defender cuts him off and he can’t pass the ball to Raphinha. A huge chance that Leeds will rue.
Firpo carries on as he was when last in the squad with an early yellow card. Not match sharp for such a big game and is eventually subbed off. City played a possession game to patiently look for opportunities from the half way line to the wide wingers, and pressing Leeds high when they build from the back. Leeds struggled to get out of their own half as long passes are swept up by City defenders. The one touch passing when counter attacking needs more composure from Leeds.
Leeds fall to a goal in the thirteenth minute with a free kick set piece. Phillips not getting high enough to defend it. It was too easy for City. Then cards stop play on 22 minutes as the referee asks the players to remove the cards fans were given before the match which they then threw on to the pitch. Good idea not thought through by the Club.
Leeds gain the momentum on the half hour with pressure on the City defence but Firpo chooses to take the shot – he likes to shoot but he is not a prolific goal scorer. Leeds for a while are a match for City. A mad moment just before half time in the Leeds penalty box as Ayling slips and loses the ball but luckily Sterling’s shot is blocked. The Leeds defence, apart from the set piece, is holding City at bay.
The first half ends with a clash between Dallas and Grealish which Dallas is the second to he ball and is injured in the process. Dallas is stretchered off and Dan James brought on.
Second half – more of the same
City start the second half attacking Leeds’ left back getting past the defenders. The second goal comes from a set piece corner with a header down followed by a tap in. Marsch vents to the fourth referee about something and earns himself a yellow card. The referee responds by giving a yellow card when Rodrigo is then fouled.
Leeds gather with determination on 70 minutes with Raphinha leading the charge, but still not troubling Ederson in goal. Raphinha has a moment with the fans when the scrunched up cards a still thrown onto the pitch when he is taking the corner and he remonstrates with them about why they are throwing them at him. As Leeds look to a goal the Leeds defence is left wide open and Jesus scores unmarked.
Gelhardt and Greenwood come on but unable to make an impact. Leeds have their best moment with Gelhardt charging into the City penalty box with Ederson making a double save. Raphinha then crosses for Gelhardt to have another shot on target. To cap the misery Fernandinho scored in extra time when Leeds fail to clear properly.
The quality between City and Leeds was fully on show today. Leeds struggled to cope with the pace, the passing and dribbling from City. They had their moments but until Greenwood and Gelhardt came they did not look like scoring. Leeds rely on their under 23s on the bench and City have players worth tens of millions. Leeds sorely missed Cooper and Bamford. Phillips and Harrison were not firing on all cylinders.
Man of the Match: Raphinha